I began writing this little ditty on May 15. Today is June 14. Draw your own conclusions.
Springtime (i.e. May slash June) in Calgary is a fairly delightful affair. Mercurial weather aside, leaves and blossoms sprout on tree branches, dead brown grass returns to a lively green (unless you’re the Johnsons and can’t be bothered to water said grass), the magical street cleaning truck comes through and sucks up all the gravel and pine cone debris caked along the edges of the city streets. Except for the areas where people, who find it difficult to interpret signs imploring them to move their cars within a specific time frame, left said cars parked. (It doesn’t annoy me at all, and I did not personally knock on two doors and invite people to move their cars.)
But, lest you’ve already begun to pack your bags to relocate to this landlocked, Arctic version of paradise, I should add it’s not all clean streets and green grass here in YYC. No, there is also the slightly inconvenient matter of having 17 hours of daylight – per day – which just so happens to coincide with four-days-a-week soccer season and the last five weeks of the school year. A maelstrom of fatigue and over-commitment and missing tupperware containers, it is when, in the words of Chinua Achebe*: ‘things fall apart.’
On Monday, I awoke later than intended. Begrudgingly, after a late night of trying to fill my fridge for the throw-food-on-a-plate event that passes for pre-soccer dinner chez nous. I yelled for the Gort to get up from the confines of my bed, because I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving it. Apparently this got on the professor’s nerves and he eventually marched into the boys’ room for a slightly more direct approach to waking sleeping children.
‘It’s snowing!’ the Gort shouted, eventually, after he’d dragged himself out of bed, which, if you were going to ask me ‘what words do you least expect to hear this morning’ those would have been right up there along with, ‘someone stole our unfashionable minivan and left a luxury SUV in its place.’
I pulled back the curtains and, sure enough, chunks of slushy snow falling from the sky. ‘Somebody forgot to give Mother Nature a call on Mother’s Day,’ the professor shook his head.
We’d been distracted by the snow, for when I next made note of the time it was mere minutes before the Gort would miss his bus. Nothing motivates me to yell at others to move faster than the thought of having to drive my kid all the way to school. In a series of moves reminiscent of Seinfeld’s Elaine trying to beat the Van Wyck in an effort to get rid of a houseguest who’d overstayed his welcome, I threw a coat over my pajamas, stuffed my feet into a pair of the professor’s shoes and bolted out the door. Only to be confronted by a car covered in snow and no scraper anywhere. Fully prepared to accept a modicum of frostbite, I used my arm to clear the windshield and driver’s window and barked at the Gort to do the same.
We made it to the bus stop with seconds to spare, the unfashionable minivan honking at the yellow bus, imploring him not to leave until my only-crosses-at-the-crosswalk son made it safely on board.
I returned home, triumphant, in my ‘what-not-to-wear’ outfit, only to remember I had neither bread nor lunchmeat for the Hen’s sandwich and he’d replied an adamant ‘no’ when I offered to pack him quinoa salad en lieu. With the promise of delivering a sandwich to school before lunch-time, I bid my middle boy adieu and with the promise of appearing in his classroom at 9:30am to volunteer, I bid young Percy farewell.
And then I remembered it was May 11, the day a certain 11 year old was supposed to turn in his final book report of the year. I could have grabbed it from his desk and driven it to school, were that an option, but seeing as there was no book report, there was nothing for me to micromanage. Yet. I filed it under ‘things to discuss when the Gort gets home and I’m on my way out the door.’
An hour later, having showered and donned slightly more conventional clothing, I walked to the school to report for kindergarten volunteer duty. Except I was supposed to show up at 8:30am, as it turned out. Three minutes after I’d picked up my volunteer badge, I turned it back in and walked home. I used my suddenly ‘spare’ hour to drive to Sunterra and pick up bread and ham for the promised sandwich delivery and, after driving home for assembly purposes, I proceeded to walk back to school with a ham sandwich tucked into the only container-with-a-lid I could find.
Seriously: Where are all my little rubbermaid and snapware containers?
I delivered the lunch to the main office and picked up the 5 year old…….and walked home. Percy and I whiled away a few hours doing who knows what and then I walked back to school to pick up the Hen. ‘How was your sandwich,’ I chirped, searching for proclamations of my mother-of-the-year status. ‘I didn’t get a sandwich,’ he muttered.
‘What happened to the Hen’s sandwich’ will forever be shrouded in mystery, not unlike evidence surrounding the Loch Ness monster’s existence. Suffice it to say, not only did I not get a ‘you’re awesome’ pat on the back, I had to walk home with a grumpily hungry kid who’d eaten nothing but yogurt all day.
At least the morning snow had melted and Spring was back in session.
In the four weeks that have transpired since I first recorded the details of my ineptitude, I can only say that things have gotten worse at the Johnson home.
I’ve tried to pinpoint what makes these last few weeks of the school year suck quite so much. Soccer season? Check. The perpetual daylight that makes us all feel like we’re living in that old Al Pacino movie, Insomnia? Check. Schools cramming in all the field trips and performances and special-don’t-miss-it-events within a matter of weeks? Check.
On Thursday I was invited to watch Percy and his classmates perform in a stomp dance class (missed it, but managed to get some footage from other, more committed moms) and on Friday I was invited to check out the Hen and his classmates perform in a stomp dance class and a few hours later I was invited to watch the Gort and his classmates play Somewhere over the Rainbow on the Ukelele and a few other things I can’t remember now.
These are, of course, all wonderful things – unless you’re a bit of a musician and actually care about things like pitch and intonation – but they become less wonderful at the end of the year when you’re all too aware that school is about to end and your habit of frequenting coffee shops alone is about to be seriously curtailed.
It’s also the time of year when my brain is incapable of holding onto a piece of information for more than thirty seconds. Most days I find myself vaguely remembering a certain event or commitment hovering in the near-future, only to find myself completely forgetting about it a couple of hours later until my phone displays a reminder notification or it comes up in conversation with someone.
Like dinner, for example. Yes, it happens every day, a fact I manage to recall mid-morning on most days and then completely forget until about 3pm when my daily round of piano teaching is about to start and I can’t do anything about it.
Enter the Sunterra pizza: an eight or ten inch circle of dough laden with various toppings and wrapped in plastic, available for purchase in the store’s deli section. I believe we ate Sunterra pizzas on two, or was it three, occasions this past week. (They also sell unadorned discs of dough in a three-pack which can be topped with barbeque sauce, diced chicken, peppers and cheese in less than two minutes. Hypothetically speaking.)
There was also taco week in which we ate corn tortillas with – you guessed it, taco filling – every night for at least three consecutive days. ‘I’m kind of sick of tacos,’ the Gort finally despaired and I took that as my cue to find another quick pre-soccer dinner option.
And there was a week in which we might have eaten roast chicken in some iteration at least five times and the professor made a few oblique references to the scene in Little Miss Sunshine where the grandpa has a bit of a poultry meltdown, using some very choice words, ‘every night with the [bleepin’] chicken.’
And I took that as the writing on the wall that I needed to move on to the ‘other white meat’, pork. (Did that piece of marketing genius not make its way north of the border?) Anyway, we had it three times this week. On the nights we didn’t eat Sunterra pizza.
Along with dinner, I tend to forget about lunch, too. Mostly the need to maintain some sort of inventory from which to prepare school lunches. There have been many mornings recently when I’ve discovered there is no milk for cereal or no bread for sandwiches or no meat to put in the bread for sandwiches. Or no plastic containers in which to put the sandwiches or the yogurt with granola.
Seriously, what do they do with all my tupperware containers? If you add up the amount of money I’ve spent on replacing tupperware and water bottles this year, I could have probably sent my favorite child to private school. For a week.
‘Nine more days,’ I held out my hands to an over-sugared, sleep-deprived Percy tonight, so he could visualize the number of school days remaining. ‘But I want it to be zero more days,’ he wailed.
And part of me does too, but part of me needs these last nine days to mentally prepare for the onslaught of togetherness that will descend upon me starting next Thursday at 2:38pm.
*It is my summer goal to read [at least a portion of] Chinua Achebe’s book.